What It’s Like to 4WD Across Southern Africa on Safari

After mapping out more than 7500km to research Back Track’s first fully-guided and escorted six vehicle safari, Jim Drapes and the brave souls on the first trek, headed off for 29 days through Namibia and Botswana, finishing at Victoria Falls and  including the Okavango Delta. It was a trip never to be forgotten, Jim writes.


In a crowded world, I found an escape… a place to be totally with nature. I fell asleep to the sounds of the African bush and woke to a cacophony of different birds.

For miles and miles we traversed the country—two foreign counties in the southern most region of the African continent—Botswana and Namibia.

Gobsmacked by the beauty of the terrain, it was strangely similar to Australia; we felt right at home, but the animals reminded us that this was Africa – elephants, lions, giraffes. In every respect it was a very different culture.

Despite all my initial research, planning, and doing the trip firsthand, this trip was a greater adventure than I had ever thought possible … we were all gobsmacked by its beauty.

Getting over Van Zyl’s Pass

We knew it was a major technical challenge for us, Van Zyl’s Pass is a notorious pass in Namibia and a classic 4WD challenge; it was the teamwork that got us through.

It’s located between two very steep mountain ranges with an elevation of 948m (3,110ft) above the sea level. The day of our crossing, it was raining and foggy … we listened, waited, tuned into each other, everyone helping and it definitely had the adrenaline pumping!

Once we crossed the pass, it was like we were completely off the map. We were now in the home of the Himba – one of the last truly nomadic people on earth. Meeting them was mind blowing and humbling.


Eat, drink and be daring

Having our chef, Stevie, with us was unbelievable. I can’t guarantee the standard of meals we had on every tour, but for our group of guinea pigs, everything was new and exciting and the food was no exception.

Dinner every night was like experiencing a gourmet food tour – great food, great wine … and South African wine is wonderful quality and very cheap.

The night sky had to be seen to be believed – star filled, beautiful. Some of us expected it to be hard to sleep at night … freaky, quiet, deserted but there was  nothing better than the pop-up ‘penthouse’ in the roof of our vehicles. Safe and sound, and comfortable.

This is where I am at

Some of the gobsmacking beauty of the area

I always knew it was going to be a fantastic adventure, but to finally do it with a group of fellow explorers, to see their reactions and to share the trip was just brilliant.

I would do this again in a heartbeat. After a lifetime of travel, this is where I see myself—self-driving in nature—a wonderful way to explore the world, to breathe, to get away from the big cities and get back to what’s real.

You’ll discover more than just nature; I think I can say that for all of us on this adventure.




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